TechGermany increases artillery shell support for Ukraine, bolsters production with $4.14bn investment

Germany increases artillery shell support for Ukraine, bolsters production with $4.14bn investment

Produced 155 mm caliber artillery shells.
Produced 155 mm caliber artillery shells.
Images source: © X (formerly Twitter) | Ukrainian Front
7:56 AM EST, February 16, 2024

To expand its production capacity, Germany invested roughly $4.14 billion. The Rheinmetall group announced the construction of a medium-caliber ammunition factory in Unterlüß, which is set to be operational by the end of 2023. This factory is targeted to produce 200,000 artillery shells annually for use in Gepards.

The Rheinmetall Group, comprising factories in Germany, Spain, South Africa, Australia, and Hungary, aims to reach a total production capacity of 700,000 artillery shells annually by 2025.

Germany's production overview

Varieties of German artillery ammunition, ranging from basic to experimental, have been observed in Ukraine. The most common category is the 155 mm DM121 caliber projectiles, retailing at around $3,553 apiece. These simplistic solutions mainly consist of a detonator and trinitrotoluene (TNT) enclosed in a steel casing. The accuracy of these fired shells is relatively high for unguided ammunition, with 85% hitting a target the size of a soccer field located nearly 18.64 miles away.

Germany also designs similar projectiles for Ukraine with an additional gas generator at the bottom. This addition generates exhaust gases that reduce the vacuum, significantly lowering the projectile's bottom resistance and extending the range to approximately 24.85 miles, as demonstrated by the M1711A1 projectiles.

Beyond these, Germany manufactures projectiles with an attached rocket booster. Despite reducing space for explosives, it significantly extends their range to over 37.28 miles. However, the use of these V-LAP type shells hasn't been observed in Ukraine, similar to the American M549A1.

The most sophisticated solutions are guided projectiles, including specialized anti-tank artillery shells encasing self-guiding subprojects with EFP (Explosively Formed Projectile) warheads, such as the SMArt 155. With a maximum range of 17.39 miles, these missiles can obliterate the most advanced Russian tank, the T-90M, as they target its weakest, top armor.

Each SMArt 155 artillery projectile carries two sub-projectiles equipped with sensors: one infrared to capture the target's thermal image and a radar to search a defined area. Once a target is detected, the sub-projectiles are parachuted over the targets and detonated, with the EFP warheads forming kinetic penetrators to pierce the armor.

Furthermore, Ukraine received a minor shipment of experimental Vulcano 155 GLR projectiles, deemed the European equivalent of Excalibur. These guided sub-caliber projectiles have a smaller diameter than the cannon caliber, encased in a sabot that falls off shortly after firing. These projectiles boast a higher muzzle velocity and better ballistic coefficient than standard 155 mm caliber projectiles, allowing them to fly further and accurately strike targets even at a distance of up to 49.71 miles.

These projectiles ensure precision at such distance thanks to a tandem of GPS and INS navigation, offering a circular error probable (CEP) not exceeding 16.4 feet. Options can also reduce the CEP to below 9.8 feet and target moving objects using a Semi-Active Laser (SAL) seeker head and a laser-shining observer or drone.

Although they possess a smaller warhead, these projectiles can operate in three modes, compensating for their reduced mass: direct impact on the target, delayed detonation (like after a wall penetration), or over the target, causing a downpour of deadly fragments.

This wide-ranging assortment dramatically boosts the effectiveness of Ukrainian artillery, given adequate supplies, which has been a struggle in Europe. It's crucial to mention that the promise to deliver 1 million shells in 2023 was not met. Still, with the ongoing augmentation of production capabilities, this could change by the end of 2024.

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